Sunday, October 15, 2017

Jesus Christ is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever

Today has been a special day for me.

40 years ago on 15th October 1977 I was ordained to the Christian Ministry and inducted to the pastorate of Harden Congregational Church, Cheltenham.

It was great to have a weekend of celebrations with the church family here at Highbury and with friends and representatives of churches Felicity and I have been part of in those 40 years of shared ministry.

On Saturday evening we had a Messy Church Celebration, with a wonderful meal served to our Messy Church regulars and friends and our Sunday congregations too. It was great to have everyone together enjoying crafts inspired by some of my interests with quizzes, Romans, geology and astronomy too. Joy Howell, our Area Youth and Children's co-ordinator, led a celebration in church that was wonderful.

You can get a flavour of that celebration here! A Messy Church Celebration

On Sunday morning the celebration continued as I entered into conversation with Roy Jenkins, Minister of the church I belonged to in Bangor as a student, David Waters who had spent a gap year with us here at Highbury 20 years ago and Yvonne Campbell, General Secretary of the Congregational Federation.

Click here for a recording of that service. Please note the service begins 23 minutes into the recording. The conversation with Roy, David and Yvonne starts at 47 minutes.


Text of the Week: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Hebrews 13:8

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. It’s particularly good to welcome all those who have come to share in a special celebration of the 40th anniversary of my ordination. It’s really a double celebration for Felicity and me as a month ago we celebrated our Ruby Wedding anniversary and for the last 40 years we have very much shared in ministry first at Harden, just outside Bradford, then in Minsterley and Pontesbury and now here at Highbury. In looking back 40 years one of the chief things I recall is the passion we shared then for the Kingdom, for the Gospel, for Christ, for His Church and for the world around us. And I am just as passionate today! So in our celebrations today we are not going to look to the past.  We are going to look to the present and to the future and share together the vision we have for today and for the future ahead of us. I’ve invited three people to join in conversation with me this morning to reflect with us all on our vision for today and for the future: the Rev Roy Jenkins who as Minister of the church I belonged to in Bangor, Pen’rallt Baptist Church, took part in my ordination 40 years ago today; David Waters, who 20 years ago spent a year with us at Highbury as a volunteer; and Yvonne Campbell who is currently the General Secretary of our Congregational Federation and who is a member of Wavertree Congregational church and a little while ago completed our CF course.

Welcome and Call to Worship

HTC 31: Give to our God immortal praise

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Jesus Christ the same … yesterday, today
and forever

Get the children to come to the front … or mix of adults … a tape measure I made 37 years ago and it’s really special – I’ve kept ever since.

Let’s see how tall everyone is.

It’s a stretchy tape measure – and that’s no good – you need a tape measure that doesn’t change then you can really know how you are growing …

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever …

A great reading

Reading: Hebrews 13: 7-8

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

That reading means the world to me and the first of those verses has been in the front of my Bible whichever Bible I have had for the last 37 years – my father had died … and I found that very difficult to cope with … and very hard to get back to taking services. The first service – I came up with that story – and I linked it to the measures in Bradford City centre because still in 1977 the Wool trade worldwide had its headquarters in the Wool Exchange in Bradford and there were measures set into the city square to settle arguments

I could remember the words – but just before the service began in the vestry I couldn’t remember where they came from – I looked them up in an index – I found them and went into the service – did the stunt, read the passage and thought nothing more of it.

I did the service on automatic pilot – and then got home and it was Felicity who said – that was a great service, really important – and it had said nothing to me. I read the passage again – and it was the verse before – that caught my attention …

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

A Hy-Spirit song

We’ve been a team together so I’ll ask Felicity to see our prayer before the youngsters go to have some more fun!

Prayer by Felicity

Activities for all over 3

What’s your vision for today and for the
future?
In conversation


So what do you do when your wife lands you in it and you celebrate the 40th anniversary of your ordination? You can’t help but remember – friends who were there at the ordination – Euros and Geraint are celebrating 40 years on as well. Other friends too, Alan Argent this very weekend. 40 years ago Tudur, the principal of the college where I had trained preached his vision for the church and my father, who was also a minister preached a sermon challenging me – the text I remember was from 1 Timothy – where Paul writes ‘to Timothy, my son’.

All moving stuff.

But I don’t want to go down memory lane.

Instead one thing I do remember from 40 years ago that we all of us shared a passion to change the world, to make a difference and to change people’s hearts. I may by next year be ready to retire as ‘the minister of a church’ but I am still as passsionte as ever about the cause, the kingdom, the gospel.

So want I want to do is to reflect on the vision there is for today and for what’s ahead – the vision for the church – how we can have a vision. And to do that I have invited three people from the last 40 years to join me.

It’s great to welcome Roy and Liz Jenkins, David and Lisa Waters and the boys and Yvonne and Dave Campbell and Poppy. So .. Roy, Yvonne and David if you would like to come and join us.

Roy was minister of the church I attended in Bangor, Pen’rallt Baptist Church – and because my father had been minister of the church I grew up in and I have been minister for the last 40 years – the only person to have been ‘my minister’ and it’s great to know Roy and Liz are there on the other end of a phone and good to get together albeit very, very infrequently!!!

First Roy, when you left school you went into journalism. I want to take you back to 28th June 1960 – you were from Abertillery in South Wales a very, very young pup reporter, I believe when you found yourself  responding to a news story that shook the nation.

Six Bells – 45 men and boys killed

Six years later there was another major disaster at Aberfan – when the coal tip slid down the mountain and    116 children and 28 adults were killed.

For many people they would have abandoned their faith in God – why didn’t God do something about it?

But you didn’t – you gave up journalism and had a call to ministry – so that 8 years later by the time I arrived as a student in Bangor.

What was it that drove you to faith? And to have a vision for Christ and the kingdom?

You were in Pen’rallt and then moved on to Ararat in Cardiff – and you became passionate about Amnesty International and set up an organization Chrsitians Against Torture – why did you home in on that particular cause?

From Arrarat it was to the BBC – and All things considered – 9-00 and on BBC i-player

Of all your guests who has been the most inspirational?

I want to bring in David at this point.

Started out life as a little one here in Highbury, went off to the wilds of Cheshire and then 20 years ago this year you took a yuear out having finished school to join us as a volunteer. And it was quite some year – joining forces with Sandra Dehn another Time for God Volunteer who next Saturday is getting married – and Jean and Roger and June and Mary are going to the wedding – to take our love! It was the height of The Ocracy – our alternative worship Saturday evening worship time – and you were out fly posting posters and we were getting in trouble for encouraging you to do that and for the sound levels in the church.
What happened next?

Durham for theology

Then a job with the BBC

Songs of Praise

Blue Peter

Documentary series on the mircales

And a year in Canterbury Cathedral

The Saturday morning football programme

And now you have been head hunted to return to Songs of Praise as a Producer.

Tell us what’s going to be happening with Songs of Praise?

Of all the people you have interviewed who has inspired you most?

And now the third of our guests – Yvonne Campbell. I think we go back a long way – one of our first CF Youth conferences was at Wavertree in Liverpool – and that’s your home church.

Tell us a little of your Christian story …

Our CF has been going through some turbulent times and you have become General Secretary with a different kind of brief to visit ans support churches – tell us a bit about what you are doing.

In visiting all those churches – what has inspired you most?
How you can help Highbury as we move on and the church looks for a minister?

What’s your vision for the future?

David – what’s your vision for the future?

Roy, a slightly different question for you …

We go back 43 years – we shared all sorts of passions then about changing people, changing the world –

And we have seen things change – we campaigned against apartheid and apartheid has finished. Through the cold war we prayed for the persecuted church behind the iron curtain – I remember we supported in Yorkshire days Micahel and Jo Pollard who visited churches behind the iron curtain each summer and reported back to our Bible Society Action group on their travels – then came to Pontesbury – and then the Iron Curtain came down – John and Joan’s son was there – as the wall came down.  I remember getting Irina Ratushinskia, a dissident Christian poet from Russia to sign her authobiography at the literature festival – and as I stood in front of her – said, lamely, we had been praying for her … and she wrote in the fly leaf – It works!

Back in 77 – the Northern Ireland troubles

The Millennium moment – full of hope – our Passion Play taking the story of Jesus on to the streets of our time.

Even in the context of torture – under President Obama things seemed to be changing.

And then everything seems to have gone wrong – since 9/11, Afghaistan, the war in Iraq, Libya, Syria – is it 2,000 and more people our drone pilots have killed in the last three or four years – and where we had supposed we could bomb over there with impunity we are coming to terms with the fact that bombing is going to be a reality for us maybe for a generation.

So many hopes dashed.

How do you hold on to that sense of vision?

What is your vision.

I want to come back to a vision that has a focus –

The collier at six bells colliery head is holding his hands out in a particular way. But it’s reminiscent of another sculpture – in Llandaff Cathedral – by Jacob Epstein – of Jesus – with his hands out in the  same way.

Christ is there in the mess of the world. With us in that mess. Accomnpanbying us through the mess – and our task is to keep at it – love for God, love for neighbvour, love for enemy – the ministry of reconciliation – with the inspiration of Jesus at our heart.

A song – that for me captures that sense of call …

251 I the Lord of sea and sky

A reading that caught my imagination in the sixth form – Ruth represents Harden who send their love but have a busy weekend of meetings yesterday and today

Reading: Romans 12:1-2 & 9-21

Great to have friends from Minsterley and Pontesbury with us – Ian is going to lead our prayers of concern.

Prayers of Concern

510 Jesus calls us here to meet him

The Lord’s Supper

Communion Offering & Dedication
Communion Collection for Langley House Trust and the Knole – the home locally that works with ex-offenders

167 Guide me O thou great Jehovah

Words of Blessing

Retiring Collection

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light